You Don’t Own the Experience — Your Customers Do

20 Jul 2016 by Steve Dodenhoff

Are you left playing defense in an ever-increasing market? Your IT department could be taking a strategic role in reshaping how your business is leveraging investments to grow market share and solve business problems.

Join special guest Steve Dodenhoff, president of Insight U.S., as he discusses the IT department’s role in transitioning from a cost center to a revenue generator — and how a business model with a customer focus can help you achieve your goals.

Note: Complete audio transcript found after author info.

Headshot of Steve Dodenhoff

Steve Dodenhoff

As president of Insight U.S., Steve’s grasp of emerging technologies keeps the company on a course for success. His desire to innovate and his commitment to continuously improve pushes Insight to its fullest potential.

Audio transcript:

Episode 1 – You Don't Own the Experience – Your Customers Do

Published July 20, 2016


Announcer: You're listening Technomics. Connecting you to insights on digital transformation and the marketplace, with your hosts: Robyn Itule and Jeremy Nelson. The hosts' opinions are their own. Enjoy the show!

Robyn Itule: You know what's possible is a really big question. And I love this question because its one that our president of Insight U.S., Steve Dodenhoff, asks all the time. And its fun to get into those conversations with him which is something I think people are really going to hear today.

Jeremy Nelson: Yeah it was really interesting as we kicked off this first interview with Steve to watch him kind of chew on the interactions he'd had with our clients about how they were trying to just even approach the client engagement model. And just the number of possibilities and things that are out there in the marketplace today to help empower them that it almost becomes its own barrier trying to make a decision on how to move forward.

Robyn Itule: You know when you have so many choices it can become absolutely overwhelming and you get paralyzed about what decision to make. And the thing that I think becomes really clear as you listen to Steve is, you only have to listen for one thing: your customers.

Jeremy Nelson:That's all that matters at the end of the day. Just making sure that you're giving them what they really need.

Robyn Itule: When we come back, Steve Dodenhoff will join us and you don't want to miss our conversation with him.


Robyn Itule: And now a word from our sponsor. Engaging your customers with modern technology requires a modern platform and infrastructure. Enter Microsoft Azure.

Jeremy Nelson: Alright, I have to stop you right there Robyn. Is it AZ-ure or Az-URE?

Robyn Itule: You know we had this conversation in Season 1 and I believe what we landed on is, it is about the color. Which is in fact AZ-ure.

Jeremy Nelson: Awesome, I'm glad that's finally put to rest.

Robyn Itule: Although now I've said it so may times I feel like I'm saying it weird.

Jeremy Nelson: It's like spoon.

Robyn Itule: We digress. The important message that you need to take away from this sponsorship is that with Azure you can build faster, move quicker, and empower your organization to reach new heights. If you contact an Insight specialist, they can help you find out how implementing Azure will open up a new realm of possibility.


Robyn Itule: Steve how are you doing?

Steve Dodenhoff: Pretty good Robyn, good to see you.

Robyn Itule: You too. Jeremy how are you doing?

Jeremy Nelson: Robyn, always good.

Robyn Itule: I saw you pacing a lot on that phone today.

Jeremy Nelson:It has been a busy day, lots of phone calls.

Robyn Itule:Never a dull moment around here.

Jeremy Nelson: Nope.

Robyn Itule: So we have Steve Dodenhoff, our president of the U.S. for Insight with us. I totally inverted your title. Steve Dodenhoff, Insight U.S. President. You have a focus on customer experience which I think is something that a lot of people feel in our organization. And it's the kind of strategic focus that I think a lot of businesses are taking a harder look at because they don't have the kind of control that they did before the advent of things like social media and Yelp and app reviews to help guide them through the best ways to be engaging their customers in a satisfying relationship.

Steve Dodenhoff: Well I think a couple things that are exciting about what we do number one, and I always keep pushing our organization, let's focus first on our client. With technology people get all excited about it and they think there's a lot of cool stuff there and I've always thought that it doesn't really matter if it doesn't solve a problem. One of the things that we have to be doing a lot of is just talking with our clients directly about how technology's going to solve business problems. And what's happened with the last few years, which has been really exciting, is not only are we doing a better job talking to our clients about how technology can solve tier problems. But their problems and the things that they're trying to work on now have a lot more to do with their customers. So we get in the conversation of how they're looking at technology and how they're investing to try and satisfy their end user customer. So it becomes a broader extension of a strategy for the work that we do trying to influence and build awareness and brand with our customer's customer. And that's really exciting. All of that is coming though sort of the end user customer ability to get into social now and access on web and information is really everywhere. Those two things have come together in a nice way.

Robyn Itule: Some of the numbers that bear out what you're talking to and seeing clients really start to orient all of their business strategy towards their clients and customers, comes from some statistics. Like 65% of a company's business comes from existing customers. So it follows that they better be pretty happy. In the course of your time in this industry, how have you seen technology start to really propel and enable that movement?

Steve Dodenhoff: Well there's a couple things that I think are happening which make our customers more excited about investing in technology. That, I think, helps them serve their existing customer base so. So number one, their customers are a mobile customer base and their customers are out and about. So the normal ways in which the traditional customer interacts, think of banks and going into a retail bank, you know branch, or traditional retail. Where going into the store was the experience and now there's so much more available through mobile applications where serving that customer base has to be done in channels that are much more friendly to the mobile customer base. And so you're seeing that customer really start to make those investments to ensure, number one, they can keep the attention of, keep the loyalty of the customers that now are looking for a different experience or looking for a more convenient experience. Now the other thing that's happening that I think allows for big investment is everything around data, data analytics, and starting not to just hold on to customers, but to actually really see what they're doing, when they're doing it, why they're doing it, and to understand the profitability of those customers. And the orientation of them and the segments that they're in, so that marketing can play a much more effective role and personalized experience. A couple of those things, you can see that there's a real return on investment, its very tangible. If I can serve these people in a different way, in a more meaningful way, in a personalized way, and I know what I'm trying to do with them. That's very, very pointed investments as opposed to maybe 10 years ago. It's like I need a website, and I need all this general marketing, and I need to spend a bunch of money on Google, and hopefully they find me, and I don't even know what search engine optimization is. That was a big investment that didn't have really pointed results. So I think our clients are seeing this very, very narrow focus and get excited about that and see "Boy, this is how I wish it was 10 years ago."

Jeremy Nelson: I think that kind of comes back to that first point your made right? Is that customers inventing in that IT because traditionally, like you said 10 years ago, building up a website, connecting up to Google. IT, your primary customers were internal. But now the IT organization actually has externally facing customers. The products and the services that they deliver touch the actual end customer now without necessarily as much friction or as much business oversight as there traditionally was.

Steve Dodenhoff: The really strong IT groups who have strong leadership there are playing an active role at the seed with marketing, with sales. Really trying to drive and shape not only, here's the data that we have, like our traditional systems house all these things. But more importantly, if we invest in these areas we can combine what we get from the customer base, like here and now with history and repurpose that in kind of a meaningful way that actually can be a proactive effort to grow our business. If IT sits back and waits for the business to do all the work, they're always going to be in a defensive mode around you know, “Well our systems support it, or we didn't proactively plan for that.” And actually they can be such a proactive advocate for the business in terms of how we can leverage what we have moving forward. And we love working with clients who are progressive in that way and who think that IT can play such a strategic role in reshaping how they're leveraging their investments.

Jeremy Nelson: IT is a business enabler, not a cost center right?

Steve Dodenhoff: Right, it absolutely is. And even here at Insight, I think there was a white paper done, I can't remember, or I don't know. Do you remember what Amy, remember the article's kind of between Amy...

Robyn Itule: The HBR? Yeah the business collaboration between IT and marketing.

Steve Dodenhoff: Right and that was just a classic and, line of business leadership with strong views about the value and importance of a certain technology and applications to enable driving a differentiated customer experience and return on investment for demand generation. In combination with a partner in IT who said, “We can do this, but we have to do it together and we have to do it early and we have to do it upfront.” That's what it takes. And its so frustrating in some organizations and we meet with clients all the time who, they're not even talking to each other, and not talking to each other for a variety of reasons. You can just count on customers who are behind here, are ultimately going to lose their customer. There is a land grab. Its scary, just think about this, I was in the contact center space for a long time, call center, contact center space. Big customer service, lots of calling. If you think anybody who's 14 years old to 25 years old is going to call a call center in the next 10 or 15 years as they mature and they're big buyers. It's not going to happen.

Jeremy Nelson: Twitter. That's how they want to reach out. That's how they want to interact and get support.

Steve Dodenhoff: And you see people who are heavily invested, heavily invested in this huge infrastructure around this. And I just see that's a big, big problem. And if companies don't change and provide different channels, imagine getting forced into a communication path that you don't want and you're the customer. You'll do that twice and then you'll go to another bank and say "I'd rather do it this way.

Robyn Itule: Twice is really generous by the way. I don't think people have that much patience.

Steve Dodenhoff: Yeah you're' right, you're right.

Jeremy Nelson: I think its interesting too, and this is a shout out for Robyn here, is that with the way that people want to communicate. A, it's very public right? So I mentioned Twitter or Facebook or whatever these social media outlets are where that's how they want to interact. But it's also very public. And I think its a continuing challenge to own your brand, right? To be able to contain those things, to deal with them, and to manage them internally in a way that maybe isn't in a public eye. But there's a continuous drive from those consumers to interact in a very public fashion.

Robyn Itule: And it's actually a very, very simple formula, in my estimation. Its probably a lot more complicated behind the scenes, but its all about consistency. If your consumers don't know how to engage you, and don't know how to get what they want from that transaction or interaction, they're not going to do it again. Its a time waster and time has become such a precious thing.

Steve Dodenhoff: So you were just talking about this customer preference and to some degree, the issue is the patience level of that. And again, in the contact center space, there were some other things that were really interesting, that I learned. Which I think again, is important here when we talk about our clients trying to influence and improve their customer experience. In the contact center space there there's a lot of excitement and hype around speech recognition technology, voice automation and all that. And a huge amount of investment went into that, and that was maybe 10 or 15 years ago. Lots of promise around speech recognition. Really it was very expensive but everything was about the user experience and that's how people would want to interact right? And then it just became a horror show. I was running the company so it was like the worst thing in the world. "So what do you do?" "Well I run a software company, its called"... "Are you guys the guys that do that you know speech recognition? That's crap, I hang up on them, agent, agent," you know? So it wasn't good. But one of the things that we learned about that was the human factors piece is really important. That was kind of the second wave of web development was they really learned you just can't put something up. Three clicks was sort of the beginning of the human factor element and voice recognition. And I think what was important about that was you have to draw clients in over time with successive positive experiences. And so if you don't strategically think about how you're building brand and building loyalty around customer experience and you don't keep creating incremental positives, like don't do the big bang in my mind. Because if you do the big bang and it doesn't go well, those customers have a predisposition for anything new you do as bad. Because what you just did was new and it was bad so, you want a Pavlov's dog strategy around incremental improvements in this area because you can get people to have this propensity, now they'll learn quickly. "Wow, every time something new comes its kind of cool." Cause you've done it. If you do two or three new and they're not good, that customer is going to have an experience for something new that I saw on my phone, something new I saw in branding, something new I saw... the last three times there was something new, its like crappy. An important strategy that I learned in that, which is trying to coach and bring customers along so that each step of the experience that you're working on they continue to build loyalty as opposed to a big bang.

Robyn Itule: One of the things that I'm hearing you say in there is how important those continual releases and improvements are. I think we're all very well aware of how much businesses have to be dedicated to evolving with their customer demands, because that's almost as rapid as the release of technology. And one topic that we want to tackle in this particular season of Technomics is how businesses are using data to do that. So are there any experiences that you've had, either as a consumer or in talking with our clients about how they're enabling themselves to read the data and make strategic improvements to a variety of pieces of the customer experience?

Steve Dodenhoff: So I have spent a lot of time with a number of clients who were doing this and its interesting. Some were talking about it and they know what's possible, but they don't know yet how to get there. And then we have some that have actually been executing it for a while. There was a company I met in the Midwest that was fantastic. So its a natural gas type of a company. They do a couple of different things. They deliver to the home and that's kind of their core business. They do it across the United States. And then they also have another group that fills like the barbeque containers. So they actually make those whole things and then they put them at places like Lowes. So anyway, I got a chance to meet with the CIO and he was talking about his business. And somebody took me there and I'm thinking, "Okay what are we going to learn here," and it was really pretty impressive. So the big challenge, the big expense for them is, they have these delivery trucks, like the big huge trucks, have giant tanks on them. Like you'd see from a gas station, the big gas trucks. And so they have inventory, like giant tank yards of inventory around the United States. And then those giant tank have... that's where the big trucks go to get the gas to fill it up and then they go to like distribution, they fill up little, smaller trucks. And those smaller trucks are the ones that are moving and going to the homes. Well, a huge amount of expense right, just in the transportation of all of that. And basically the way that they were trying to manage delivery and where to go was based on weather patterns and weather forecasting. And so their traditional view was, "Okay we just monitor the weather and we have some historical data about needs and when the weather in Flagstaff gets below 25. And we have this view of the last time we delivered for these 5,000 homes and the tank gets down." They kind of had a model they built for all of that. They felt like it was super inefficient, but that was the best that they had to offer. Some costs associated, so if a tank goes down below a certain level then its a huge safety hazard. So its very costly which is if they miss a route or if their modeling doesn't work, they have a big cost there. And then the predictability, if they go to a place and get out and stop and the gas is like halfway full or three-quarters full, because they missed the weather thing then that's a miss. So they kind of threw all that out the window and just decided that they were going to... this was kind of a big data and a... and by the way the customer experience in all this is, "Its cold and I don't have any gas." Bad, bad problem. So what they ended up implementing, they started thinking about technology and they started to see that it was possible too. In the early days, a couple years ago, they just actually connected the land line. They built a small, little device that they could connect to the tank and they connected the telephone landline from the house to this device on the big tank. And figured out that when the tank got to a certain level, that it could dial in and basically say, "Time to fill me up." They subsequently did a cellular data device that moved that and so in some markets there's not cellular service, now they have a view of every tank that's out there with an ability to understand where its at from a volume point of view and be able to go service in a more proactive way. And obviously it saved them a tremendous amount of money. They figured that it was saving them, for every truck that was on the road, it was like 1,000 miles a year of driving that was inefficient, plus the safety, plus, plus, plus. And obviously their customer experience was really a positive one. One of the things that they did, if you guys remember when the big. What did they call it, the big chill? A couple of years ago, Boston. And so they had moved to this model a couple of years before and they had some other big competitors. And so they always reposition their inventory and strategically moved it all around differently now with a different model and understanding this. They were able to satisfy the needs of the entire gas industry all of their competitors in the big chill had had their inventory and stuff in different, wrong places. And so they were, and they really did it out of the goodness, I mean they didn't charge anything extra, but they just were able to go...

Jeremy Nelson: No surge pricing?

Steve Dodenhoff: No surge pricing.

Robyn Itule: That is good branding.

Steve Dodenhoff: Yeah it was, it was fantastic branding. So I thought pretty innovative for a natural gas company to figure out from a customer experience point of view the challenges and disappointment when that isn't going well and then small ways to think about data in a different way and be able to use that to reposition. And the most important thing was he figured it saved the company 10 to 12 million dollars. So as a CIO, he gets that money as budgeted investment for other stuff. And so they're always working on cool things like that.

Robyn Itule: Where did you grow up?

Steve Dodenhoff: Sorry that was a bit long.

Robyn Itule: No that was great.

Jeremy Nelson: I was right here in Phoenix.

Robyn Itule: You grew up in Phoenix?

Jeremy Nelson: Very boring.

Robyn Itule: Steve you had part of a childhood in Michigan right?

Steve Dodenhoff: No, I grew up here.

Robyn Itule: Oh well.

Steve Dodenhoff: I mean I had like, I got 6 months in North Dakota and some frostbite and that was about it.

Robyn Itule: That was about it. So...

Jeremy Nelson: Came back to Phoenix.

Robyn Itule: I grew up in Pennsylvania where the scenario that you just outlined is a real one. And where I'm going with this is that that's the unmet need right? And we think about that from our marketing and a branding effort a lot, is helping our clients understand the unmet need. Because if we can start to facilitate that, all of a sudden, they're leaps and bounds ahead. And that loyalty is there. So I love the anecdote about them going in during a time of crisis for a community and just saying, "Got this." That's an unmet need that was being fulfilled in a very dramatic and real way on a number of levels.

Steve Dodenhoff: I mean one of the other things that we're seeing, or I hear a lot of and I get excited about with our clients, its just around data and Internet of Things and all of these terms. What I hear our clients talking about today that they weren't talking about a few years ago, and I think it's really exciting, is they're actually recognizing that they can ask the what's possible question. They now know that the cloud offers expandable, flexible, consumable technology on demand that allows for sort of a different investment model. Which means, "Hey, I don't need to have millions and millions and millions of dollars to do something and I don't have to have a huge amount of IT resource. So number one, I have a little different way of which I could approach this.” And then the what's possible is if I wanted to get this information or if I wanted to deliver to my consumers something different or if I wanted to try and take advantage of, they know that there are applications and there are capabilities out there to do this. So mobile, they know that they could reach anybody they want at any point in time, today, anybody. So that's like "Hmm, that's pretty interesting.” They know there's people who can make the applications. They know it can connect to the Internet, to the web. Some of their core systems, they know that they could house some of it in different ways. And then they realize that the data analytics and all the information that they want can get delivered to them in a meaningful way. So they're starting to ask these really great questions. Like man, you see it in retail, what if? And that's fun, that's when people are getting the point of mobile and data and cloud, all come together to create a what's possible. And then at least they, the executing is always hard. But when clients are taking about what's possible, its fun 'cause they're starting to think differently about serving their customers.

Robyn Itule: Well and the service element's a really, really important one because, there's some research out there that's saying that 55% of customers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience. And that, I mean clients and customers are just no longer... there's table stakes to have a good customer experience. It actually feels silly to have just said that. Like, there's actually probably a short, okay maybe its not a short list, of brands out there that get away with not offering a good customer experience. They certainly suffer for it on social media, but they don't seem to be damaged in the long run which is beyond my thinking.

Jeremy Nelson: But it's also creating some of the biggest, right? Like when you think about Apple, you go back to early 2000s when they were nearly on the verge of extinction. And the way that they saved themselves is by offering that premium experience. Everything from the build and make of their actual devices to the experience that you had when you went into a physical store, very controlled, very high end. Where they were able to charge a premium for basically the same guts as another machine, but the way that they completely controlled that client interaction was one...

Steve Dodenhoff: Well there was, they had consistency. I think that's one of the challenges of a lot of traditional companies is the inconsistency of the different channels and so that's alarming to clients. "If I happen to call you it feels like this, if I'm on your website it looks different, I go into a store it's very different. And then I see you advertising or I see branding." And so consistency just in general, for a baseline is really, really important. And then that repeated experience around what it is to do business together starts to build momentum around loyalty. I think inconsistency, given so much access to information choice, other channels, other ways to get things, people's tolerance for sticking around, its almost fun to go try to find something else because its so readily available. So I think you're either totally committed to that consistent experience. Or you really risk a very kind of fluid customer base because I think people feel like now they deserve only the best. And the best is out there.

Robyn Itule: Well another thing too that makes consistency so critical is the threats that are out there. You think of some of the brands that are out there and the financial tax base. If I see something that looks even a little off from a banking experience, my radar goes up. But it could also be the case that a different system and a different style sheet is providing a different user experience but its presenting the possibility of a security threat. That's a problem.

Steve Dodenhoff: Yeah, I think we're all kind of skeptical to begin with when it comes to all of the online experiences. I think when you put that into the context of companies who have suffered through their own customer problems around getting hacked or accounts, its very, very tough to recover. This is again where IT plays a very, very important role in the CISO [assumed] and others in protecting the brand. Cause there's nothing that could disrupt years and years worth of effort building loyalty and building brand for something like that to happen and you don't recover over night. Look at some of the companies, they just don't recover at all. So its a very, very difficult spot for the technology folks to be in. Knowing that there's probably thousands and thousands and tens of thousands of people in spots all around the world who spend their every waking moment trying to figure out how to do this.

Jeremy Nelson: And the scariest part is not even necessarily, again controlling that messaging. If something does occur, the ability to contain and communicate the degree of that right, of that event. You know I've worked for an organization where one specific site was compromised but it was reported in the news that the entire organization and everyone who's ever used this brand, has potentially had their information compromised. And its really challenging to walk that back. It was totally inaccurate but it was out there, and that immediately becomes perception.

Robyn Itule: And of course, perception is reality. We'll be back after a quick break where we'll go in depth on customer experience and the many possibilities.


Robyn Itule: You know, when you're like Jeremy and I and you work in technology, often times you see a news headline and you just start thinking, "Hmm, I wonder how many data centers are required to power that initiative."

Jeremy Nelson: All the time, its so funny. You see traditional headlines come through and my brain goes into what's under neath that from an IT perspective.

Robyn Itule: Well because, lets be honest, we live in a day and age where you don't have a lot of opportunity to really dive deep into some of the areas and some of the headlines that come across that are really, really important. And from a technology perspective, where technology is fueling so many of the things behind the breaking news, somebody's got to start telling those stories.

Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely, as intriguing and important as the headlines are, for us in the technology space, the solutions that power those decisions is just as important.

Robyn Itule: So that's what we did. We produced a digital magazine called Technically because we found that technically there's so much more to discuss when you're talking about things that really matter and impact our daily lives. So if you want to take a deeper dive on headlines from a technology perspective, I really encourage you to subscribe to Technically. We push an issue once a quarter, and its always going to be relevant and well researched. You too can subscribe today at


Robyn Itule: So there are a lot of challenges and context that go into the considerations that companies make in service to their clients. And you spend a ton of time with clients. In your experience, as you're having these conversations out on the road, do you start to see a common tipping point for companies when they're ready to go all in to invest for technology that's about the customer experience?

Steve Dodenhoff: I think number one, when I get to meet with kind of curious executives, they're not just driving their business. They've kind of got a curiosity about them and maybe across a functional group of people. So you're meeting with somebody in marketing or sales or, there's a catalyst. There's typically a couple people who are starting, they're believers in what's possible like I said. Nobody wants one person to drive this. So in a lot of companies it does take consensus for this. You're going to need people in marketing and sales to believe in it. You're going to need IT on board with it. You're going to need sponsorship at the executive levels and funding for it. So what I typically see is a lot of discussion about a lot, a lot of bubbling about it, a lot of talking about it, and I hear the cross-functional teams of IT and marketing in the business really starting to believe that investing in this area as a collective enterprise is going to be valuable to them. Whether its growing their business, its typically around growing. Its not so much I want our customers to love us, its we think there's a better way to grow. So when that happens, then they start asking like what's first. And that's typically our spot where we start spending some time with them. I haven't really come across this one defining moment but it certainly gets back to the point I was telling Jeremy. Its when people are starting to talk about what's possible and there's enough stake holders going, "Its there, we just have to decide we want to go for it. Because we think our customers are that important. Or we're sitting on a gold mine of data and we just got to figure out how to capitalize on it." That's the trigger point typically for change. Now there's maybe two other ways to think about it that are definitely, we know they are tipping points. One is a fairly big organization that's got traditional enterprise applications that are not mobile enabled. And they have a bigger, bigger work force that's required to serve a customer base that's mobile. So this concept of, “You're tethered to the seat but you have to be out with your customers. And the applications that run the business don't support that,” that's a big tipping point. Like we're, we're stuck. So that's definitely a moment where people are like, "This is not going to be good, we can't even really hire the right people anymore, and we're not able to serve." That one's for sure and then I do think in certain industries, healthcare you see it a lot, retail you see it a lot, where the customer experience is like big number one priority. So the kind of in-care experience. Empowering not only the patient, but the patient's family, the nurses. Like that, that's a big driver and then the compliance component in combination. That's a big tipping point for if I have to do this, then why not do that. And there is a lot of competition for care. So we see that in certain key industries, like retail, if we don't really get our customers engaged, big boxes is a really big boat anchor for when you think of retailers that have millions and millions and millions and millions of square feet that cost a lot of money. And they can't get people to come in the store because the experience isn't right and the online experience. That's a financial problem that if they don't solve, that's a big tipping point. So that's where we would see it. But across more of a general, its just when people are getting real excited about what's possible.

Robyn Itule: That sounds like the collaborative conversation is kind of illuminary. Where if you've got more than one group around the table, that's been throwing spaghetti at the wall, with respect to customer experience, that maybe that's really the start of some magic.

Steve Dodenhoff: Well I think its interesting you know, over the last four or five years I'd say a lot of the big frustrations with the CIOs, and CFOs probably as important, is line of business people going off and doing their own thing in the cloud right? Like I just...

Jeremy Nelson: Well I can use a credit card and you spend it up.

Steve Dodenhoff: Exactly, exactly. So beyond Test Dev [assumed] it's a lot of stuff. So what I think lines of business are learning and what this cross function creates is the "Wow there are capabilities and things out in the cloud that allow people to do certain things if you really focus in on the end-user customer." The core systems, the core data, the core information, what's in the heart of the company, which is traditionally what IT owns, is going to be the source of everything you want to do. So if you don't have IT partnered in there, it's not going to work. If you don't have IT playing a role in talking to the CFO and the CEO about security and that they support this in a holistic way, you're not going to get the funding. And so I think its maybe coming back a little bit towards this if we all want what we want. CIO wants security, that's what they're going to get fired for.

Robyn Itule: Customer wants security.

Steve Dodenhoff: Customer wants security. CFO wants control of financials. Business just wants high performance information. And if they can find that common ground, which I think they can, you're starting to see a lot of collaboration. Cause I think it might have got stuck a little bit in kind of what's happened in the last couple of years.

Robyn Itule: What is the most exciting thing you see in what's possible? Is there a solution out there or a conversation that's happening with respect to clients that you're stoked about?

Steve Dodenhoff: Well I think a little bit about here, what I'm excited about, but when I see our clients its sort of the progression, its not like a solution. But its this journey of a delighted customer. And I don't know what that looks like. I know that there are some core components that are required as you start. You need certain systems, you need infrastructure a certain way, you need applications, you have to understand mobility, you have to understand data. Then you get to start thinking about predictive analytics. And then you get to start thinking about propensity to buy. And pretty soon you've, you are really one to one with your customer. And for big companies who haven't ever had to have or haven't had the opportunity to have an intimate relationship with their customer. Everything that we're talking about can produce that over time. And some people will get there faster than others. But the companies who get there quicker and the companies who are creative in that area and the companies who have a passion for it and a vision for it are going to really dominate the landscape. And they're doing it for the right reason which is an intimate relationship with their client. And that is really exciting, that's super compelling. Who wouldn't want to do that? Now, where we're at and where we're going allows for that in a meaningful way that marketing campaigns and slogans did 20 years ago, and Internet tried 15. Its getting pretty, pretty real right now and we're seeing it in a lot of different areas. So way more about the journey and then every time there'll be some new cool things that are coming out that are refinements or reintegration of elements of social and CRM and analytics that will be an incredibly personalized experience for us and allow companies to really be responsive to their unique client needs.

Jeremy Nelson: It makes sense if you come from a context in our background, like hearing a lot of that is very prevalent in a lot of these context in our type solutions right? Cause that was maybe the 90s, 2000s way of having that interaction where you're trying to pull data from multiple different sources and provide some of that interaction. But it just makes sense that what you're talking about now is just an evolution of that same type of model.

Steve Dodenhoff: In all the things that we do, there's parallels. And it's interesting, you go out to a lot of businesses and even though they're different, they have the same business problems typically. The gas company was trying to solve a problem that a retailer is trying to solve. Now how they get there is different but when the executives are thinking about solving it and you know there's some commonality, some building blocks that are the same, it gets really exciting to see if you can participate in that. I always thought that the contact center space was kind of the voice experience and a lot more of what and so flavors of voice in terms of automation, voice recognition, skills based routing. And all these were refinements in delivering a customized experience and pretty inefficient though.

Jeremy Nelson: A lot of work. A lot of work.

Steve Dodenhoff: It's a difficult question to ask because if they're not thinking that way then its a little off-putting. 'Cause they know they should be thinking but they don't have the right answer. So I usually try to talk about what's going on with your customer base. What are some of the key initiatives you're trying to solve for? What's going on the competitive landscape? Just to try to get a feel for how connected are they with their clients. If they can tell you right away 10 things, then you know that they're definitely in that mode and hopefully we can encourage. The next meeting is like get the marketing people, get other people in and let's really dig into that. And we have plenty of opportunity right when we start talking about their clients. What's happening, what's going on in the industry, how competitive is it, what pressures, what are you feeling? They'll have a view of it typically and it gives us a really good sense are they customer-centric, client-centric or they're really talking to the wrong people, or technology's kind of where they're focused. More times than not though, people have pretty strong opinions right now.

Robyn Itule: People usually tell you who they are. The way that they respond right?

Steve Dodenhoff: Mmhmm.

Robyn Itule: I think that's a great vision of... What's the Margaret Thatcher saying? If you have to tell them you're a lady, you're probably not kind of thing right? If you have to tell people that you're customer obsessed, like maybe we should question that. So yeah, we should be customer obsessed right? I mean that's the weight of doing business, we know that being crazy about our clients is a winning strategy for keeping business just because the ROI on keeping a client is a lot better then spending the money to go and acquire new. It's just hard to win people over. But by the same token, having the courage to do that evolution, to reach into a new market, is something that businesses have to have the courage to do in an environment like the one that we're in. Otherwise, you become a dinosaur pretty quickly. You're talking about customer churn [assumed] and happening about every five years is I think is the common standard. So in the last five years, who would you say has evolved to offering a really great customer experience powered by technology?

Steve Dodenhoff: Jeremy, or to me, anybody?

Robyn Itule: It's coming to you next.

Jeremy Nelson: That's right.

Robyn Itule: And I know you have an answer.

Jeremy Nelson: I do, man. I'm that predictable?

Robyn Itule: Don't say XBOX.

Jeremy Nelson: No I was going to say XBOX.

Robyn Itule: Okay.

Jeremy Nelson: Actually Marriott with the travel that I've done. Like the mobile check in app and some of the other things that they've done to empower the whole guest experience through technology. I really, really appreciated and talk about being very, very customer-centric. Every time I check in as a gold member, they're always like "Oh Mr. Nelson, we're so glad you're here. Thank you for being a rewards customer."

Steve Dodenhoff: Come out from behind the desk, here's your key.

Jeremy Nelson: Yeah and they kind of give you the whole, you know it's that whole guided tour and they just kind of go the extra mile. And so that's one in particular that I've...

Steve Dodenhoff: Well you know I travel a lot too. I don't know if you've downloaded it. Hilton's just rolled out this, you know the key card pass that goes to your phone?

Jeremy Nelson: I think that is so cool.

Steve Dodenhoff: And so you can check in ahead of time like you just check in on your phone. Download the app, check in. Pick your room. And then you get, for the properties that are enabled, you get the thing on your phone and you just hold it.

Jeremy Nelson: No need to stop at the front desk.

Steve Dodenhoff: Yeah you just say hi, and that's it.

Jeremy Nelson: Wow.

Steve Dodenhoff: So you know convenience like that from a consumer point of view is fantastic. I will tell you, I don't know if you guys, do you fly American Airlines at all.

Jeremy Nelson: Every once in a while.

Steve Dodenhoff: Their phone system and their interactive system is really good. It's speech recognition and its the best I've seen. It's pretty much you can do anything you want.

Jeremy Nelson: It's come a long way. When you get those speech recognition prompts and the ability like to just recognize natural speech patterns. And to determine kind of queuing and skill based routing and all of that, its come a long, long way.

Steve Dodenhoff: Yeah it has. I still think there's a place for just a normal, in-store experience that, you know I have a Lexus. So I took my car into Lexus and I don't have a new one, it's like 2008. But, so I took it in to get it emission checked and it failed. It failed cause there was like a fuse that didn't work. I took it to Lexus and go I got to get this thing fixed. And I was traveling all the time so I had no time to even take it in. And he calls me back and goes, "It's all ready to go." And I go there and he said, "You passed." And I said, "What do you mean?" And he goes, "Well I took your car over and got it emissions tested and you passed." Like he did that. All I paid was for an oil change you know and I'm like thank you very much. And I'm like okay. That is what I'm talking about.

Jeremy Nelson: That is exemplary customer service.

Steve Dodenhoff: So, I think we don't always have to think retail and that kind of in store experience is dead. There is a place for it for sure.

Jeremy Nelson: Absolutely.

Robyn Itule: I think there's a really strong point in that which is, that probably one of your more memorable recent examples had kind of nothing to do with technology, which is sort of the point right? That anything that happens in the customer experience should, one be delightful. And secondly, it should enable an experience with a human as an ideal. My example was going to be Disney, 'cause man. Their whole product is experience right? And having just gone there with my four year-old I am, to let you know, kind of amazed at how seamless and personal it is in this sea of thousands and thousands of people trying to create a memorable experience as well. And a lot of that is happening because of technology.

Steve Dodenhoff: And Fast Pass.

Jeremy Nelson: Oh yeah. I'm a big fan of that Disney app too. Checking the line lengths and oh yeah. We had strategies for which lines to hit, how to Fast Pass, and where we're going next.

Robyn Itule: My husband was so strategically planned on this trip that he would go get us the Fast Passes and then also figure out where the churro carts were on the route to the next location.

Jeremy Nelson: Oh yeah. That's a man after my own heart right there.

Robyn Itule: It runs in the family because my daughter met Brave. And she asked her in her quant Celtic lul, "What's your favorite part about being a Disney princess?" Because obviously she was there in a costume. And she goes, "All the churros."


Robyn Itule: Good answer kid.

Jeremy Nelson: Very good answer.

Robyn Itule: Most of the people in line were like shaking their heads like, "Yeah, she's right."

Jeremy Nelson: She knows what Disney's all about.

Robyn Itule: Sage wisdom little one. Well we have a lot more to cover in this season that speaks to the heart of engaging our customers and creating those delightful and memorable experiences, and leveraging technology to do it. There's a lot of really key points that you hit on here about the collaboration with the lines of business and using data and looking to applications to help create and shape that evolution and that brand journey that we talked about today. So, really excited to continue talking about customer engagement this season. And Steve, we really appreciate your time and can't wait to have you back.

Steve Dodenhoff: You did a really nice job you guys.

Jeremy Nelson: Glad to be apart of it.

Steve Dodenhoff: We'll have you back when we talk workforce enablement. Something else I also know is near and dear to your heart.

Steve Dodenhoff: Okay thanks Robyn, Jeremy.

Jeremy Nelson: Thank you, thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes, you can download the podcast from iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And for more stories on intelligent technology visit